Isolation Cookery


Friends and a well-stocked pantry save the day.

On the 4th of January 2022, my husband and I were booked at a local vaccination site for our Covid-19 booster shots. This was five months to the day from our second Astra-Zeneca injection. We’d been feeling a bit hay-feverish and sniffly in the days before New Year’s Eve (no partying or fireworks this year, home in bed before midnight). Then on the 2nd of January, we twigged that perhaps we were symptomatic. 

Luckily, a neighbour had some spare RAT tests because there were none to be found when we phoned every pharmacy (it seemed) in Adelaide.

I smell a RAT

The tests both came up positive so we cancelled the booster appointment and instead, booked a PCR for ASAP. That ended up being two days forward on the 4th of January. We isolated until the test, went out for the test, came back and 32 hours later had a confirmed positive. 

For the first few days, I had a cough and a slight wheeze when I laughed. At least I have a hubby who can still make me laugh. Right?

The symptoms have passed. A little bit of congestion is all that remains now on day nine of our mandatory 10 day isolation period (10 full days from our PCR test date, as per the rule for South Australia).

So what were we to eat?

When we got the immediate positive on our RAT my first comment was, ‘Oh my Gawd, what are we going to eat.’

I knew I couldn’t be too unwell if I still had my appetite.

Like everyone, we have just been through two years of a pandemic that has made us shop like we were about to get snowed in for a week. We still retain a little of the lockdown mindset, even though in Adelaide we have not had much in the way of actual lockdown. And really not much COVID-19 infection, come to think of it. And we definitely never get snow. At least not down here on the Adelaide plains, just kilometres from the Gulf. And it’s summer, anyway.

Our neighbour Tracey has a plot in the local community garden where we also grow a few things. She kept right on top of watering and bringing our daily harvest of cherry tomatoes, fresh mint and basil.

When we’d forgotten some essentials in our grocery order, (Covid brain fog, I’m sure) our friend Kirsty kindly filled in the gaps and did a grocery, bakery and pharmacy run. Her 14-year-old son even texted me one day to see if we needed anything as they were about to go to the shops. How nice is that?

Another friend, Lia, brought handmade farfalle pasta and a piece of Ricotta Salata (salted ricotta which can be eaten fresh or aged), both of which her husband, Saverio, made.

So, clearly, we are being looked after by our peeps.

Here are a few things we have managed to cobble together during our isolation:

  1. Homemade farfalle pasta with ragu,  topped with grated Ricotta Salata.
  2. Cinghiale (wild boar) and venison sausage with lentils and tomato sugo. 
  3. Spaghetti with homemade Pesto Genovese (it’s summer in Australia; our garden has basil) tossed with pieces of chicken breast that we grilled on the Weber. 
  4. Chicken breast with lemon and oregano on the Weber and an oven tray of broccoli, diced sweet potatoes and potatoes. 
  5. Buckwheat salad with blanched peas and capsicum (red, green, yellow peppers) that had been pan-cooked, low and slow, in olive oil and shallot. Tossed with fresh chopped mint, grated raw carrot, yesterday’s leftover sweet potatoes and chopped dry-roasted almonds plus some crisped bits of shallot on top. 
  6. Pasta with pesto, broccoli, and more peas.
  7. Open sandwiches of Latvian rye, salted ricotta and homegrown tomatoes.
  8. Feta, beetroot, rocket, shallot and balsamic-glazed walnut salad with a pork and fennel sausage.
  9. Couscous topped with a beef, chickpea, carrot and celery stew.
  10. Hummus and crudities with crackers.

Our portions were smaller because we are moving less and we haven’t needed the calories. So a little has gone a long way. We thought we would need a second grocery order but we have tomorrow all planned (did I mention we also have meatballs in the freezer?) and that’s day 10. We’ve managed with little suffering! OK so we are out of biscuits to have with my afternoon cup of tea, but that’s probably a good thing.

Staples that saved us

We generally have most of these items (and much more) in our pantry, fridge or freezer at any given time:

  • Homemade sugo or ragu in freezer
  • Tins of whole tomatoes
  • Dry roasted almonds (local only) for snacking or to cook with
  • Walnuts
  • Pine nuts
  • Tahini
  • Tins of chickpeas or other legumes/beans
  • Buckwheat
  • Few types of dry lentils
  • Crackers
  • Broccoli
  • Carrots
  • Celery
  • Shallots
  • Garlic
  • Pickles
  • Vinegars
  • All manner of condiments, herbs and spices
  • Flour and yeast
  • Olive oil (local only)
  • Locally made pork and fennel sausages
  • Latvian rye bread (‘rupjmaize’ from local Latvian community)
  • Potatoes
  • Dry pasta (various shapes)
  • Pesto (freshly made in season and some frozen for later)
  • Different cheeses for snacking or to cook and garnish with
  • Various cuts of meat or chicken in the freezer (meatballs too!)

The planning and preparation of good food is a highlight of our day, even under normal circumstances, and we would have been miserable if we’d not been able to do enjoy this during our isolation. We’re fortunate we have felt well enough to actually prepare meals.

I have a husband who takes charge in the kitchen and makes beautiful and delicious meals from what we can round up — even during a pandemic.

We are incredibly grateful for the kindness of good friends and neighbours during this period, without whom some of these meals would have been lacking.

Pesto, Peas and Broccoli

I’d love to hear how others have coped with cooking during a long lockdown or isolation. Who or what saved you? Drop me a comment and let me know.

Ciao for now, MLT

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